Having acted in more than eighty plays, there are so many funny “happenings” that can take place during the run of a show that become the future tales one remembers when they are old and grey … like for me … now.
Of course, the large wooden barn theatre had no air conditioning and this was August. Also, the “dressing room” was an enclosed attic located above the stage (where the hottest air naturally rises to) and in this particular period piece, we had a costumer who was wonderful and was able to procure gowns for me that I absolutely adored wearing, however, there were nights when the temperature had risen to 100 degrees that day and, add to that, the theatre’s lights and the 100
audience members fanning themselves in the attempt to keep from passing out.
OK, so I was directed to dine on some fruit that was placed on a table … it was a lovely platter of grapes and other bitesize tidbits which I was to eat at a rather rapid rate in an agitated manner. Well, after a few luscious grapes, but not too soon before my line, a bridge in my mouth became dislodged and me, being Madame Arkadina, first lady of the theatre, a rather grand dame, couldn’t speak in this condition and had to get it back in it’s place … which took some frantic maneuvering let me tell you. But, eventually while conducting tongue maneuvers I didn’t even know I was capable of, thankfully the god damned teeth went back into place the very instant before I delivered my line.
Since the dressing room was over the stage, everyone had to be extremely quiet so as not to be heard, and there were changes of costumes to be made with the assistance of our dresser. I don’t know what happened that night, but when I came down for Act Two it seems I was helped into my Act Two gown and didn’t remove my Act One gown … so there I was 100 degrees on stage wearing BOTH GOWNS. I only realized it when I sat down during the scene and EVERYONE saw them in full sight.
While crossing the stage dreamily speaking of the peasants across the river, the heel of my show went through the wooden floor with a loud “CRUNCH!” That was bad enough, but then I had to PULL it out with all my might, looking very silly and making a similar “CRUNCH!” that was almost
too much to bear. But I was very proud of myself … I never lost character inspite of the almost hysterical laughter going on in my head. But more was yet to come on this ill fated performance.
My director was a master at designing the perfect curtain call. In keeping with the events of this “for me only” disastrous evening’s performance, at my curtain call I crossed USC to take a very slowly delivered … very, very low royal bow, down to the floor, and lost my balance and fell over onto my side and just lost it … in character of course, was assisted in getting up by my costars and upon reaching back stage had a very, very long, very hard laughing fit … that was years ago and I’m still laughing.
The Lunch and Judy Show